5 factors to consider before exercising outdoors this summer

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Summer brings longer, sunshine-filled days which entice us to spend more time outside. We appreciate the pleasant shift in the weather (especially after long periods of rainfall), howbeit, it’s necessary to exercise caution being physically active when the temperature and humidity rise.

Exercise helps strengthen your heart so that it works more effectively. It increases the force with which your heart has to pump blood to all parts of the body, and it helps promote a feeling of well-being, adding to your quality of life. The Heart and Stroke Foundation explains that when exercise is planned and controlled, it can strengthen the heart muscle just as it does for other muscles.

 On the other hand, when exercise is unplanned or excessive, it strains the heart’s ability to adapt. It’s vital to discuss your physical fitness plans with your doctor or nurse as each individual with heart failure has unique needs and limits, and your physical activity regime has to be designed around what will work for you.

 During summer, you may have to alter your exercise program to ensure that your heart failure symptoms don’t worsen as a result of undue, heat-related stress. With that being said, here are five things to consider before exercising outdoors this summer:

The time of day

Whether you’re going for a walk in the park or joining an outdoor yoga class, the time of day affects you during summer. To avoid periods of hot, humid, and hazy weather, some experts advise exercising when it is cooler outside; early in the morning or late at night. "Exercise at the time that's most convenient and the place that's most comfortable for you,” Dr. Adolph M. Hutter, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, said in a Harvard Health article.

When the temperatures rise between 12 and 3 pm, staying indoors or inside an air-conditioned facility will be a better, safer option. Having heart failure shouldn’t restrict you from doing the activities you love, but it does require a little compromise and dedication to managing your illness. 

How you feel

If you’re feeling unwell before exercising, don’t force yourself. Instead, be realistic and reschedule or find an alternative. Listening to your body will help you make the best decisions for yourself at that time. If you’re feeling up to doing physical activity, drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated before, during, and afterwards. Harvard Health suggests sports drinks if you sweat a great deal as they contain electrolytes — minerals such as potassium, sodium, and magnesium, that can replenish what you lose from sweating.

“If you take medications for high blood pressure, especially diuretics, ask your doctor if you should adjust your dose on days you plan to be outside in the heat.” During exercise, if you feel dizzy, nauseous, have a headache, experience rapid breathing and heartbeat, or extreme thirst, immediately move to a cool place and drink water. 

The clothes you wear

Your body is not used to extreme heat at the beginning of the summer, and you are also not acclimatized if you don’t exercise regularly during hot weather. Because of this, Health Canada states that it’s important to know what the temperature is outside so that you can modify your physical activity as needed. The clothing you wear is also salient during summer to ensure your comfort and prevent overheating.

Wearing lightweight, light-coloured, breathable apparel, and a broad-brimmed hat will help protect you when you’re outside and help keep your body temperature regulated. Darker colours attract more heat from the sun so it’s best to avoid wearing them during peak sunshine hours.  

The air quality

Before you leave your house, check the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) in your area. Health Canada reports that pollution tends to be higher during extreme heat. When active, you are more sensitive to air pollution because you breathe deeply and allow more air to enter your lungs. If you are in an area where mosquitoes are active, make sure to protect yourself with insect repellent and follow the manufacturer’s directions.

Time to recover

Be cautious not to overdo it when exercising outdoors this summer and allow your body to recover after exposure to heat. Feeling tired the following day usually means you over-exerted, which is not something you want to happen. It’s imperative to allow the heart to rest and ‘catch up’ with the body’s demands on it. As the Heart and Stroke Foundation puts it: “Resting does not have to be sleeping. It can be a quiet time of listening to music, relaxing, or reading.”

Consequently, energy conservation helps your heart by saving up energy for activities you plan to do the next day or the next week. This might include planning a vacation, preparing for a family visit or a project at work, or organizing activities with your loved ones. Whatever the task, only do what you feel is within your limits, one thing at a time.

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